Federal managers support program cuts, fewer contractors

By Kellie Lunney

November 7, 2011

More than half of federal managers believe the super committee should cut programs to save money and reduce the number of government contractors, according to a new survey from Government Executive Media Group.

Eighty-four percent of respondents supported shrinking the contractor workforce to save money and more than half identified duplicative processes and waste in their agencies that could be eliminated to improve efficiency. While federal managers are in favor of scaling back costs, they are worried about impending budget cuts and do not want their pay and benefits targeted to help reduce the deficit.

"Paying more into their pensions, reducing the salary used to calculate annuities, further freezing pay and raising health care premiums are unacceptable to the majority of managers," said the report accompanying the survey. Still, 45 percent reported they would support higher employee contributions to pensions, while 37 percent were in favor of an additional pay freeze. Thirty-four percent endorsed paying higher health care premiums.

The survey, conducted in September, included 814 respondents at the GS 11-15 levels as well as members of the Senior Executive Service. The Government Business Council, the research arm of Government Executive, conducted the study.

Federal managers advocate a government-wide reduction in contractors, but do not think layoffs will come from within their own agencies. Twenty percent said such layoffs are "not at all likely," while 19 percent responded that fewer contractors were "slightly likely," or "moderately likely." Respondents also favored limiting the number of new federal hires as a way to save money -- a finding that could help supporters of a bill circulating in Congress to reduce the workforce through attrition by 10 percent by 2015.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents said agencies were ripe for cuts when it comes to eliminating waste and redundancy in government programs and processes. Managers mentioned overhauling administration practices, consolidating offices and reining in training expenses. Many cited the complicated nature of working with other agencies in particular as an obstacle to efficiency. Only 18 percent of managers included in the survey described agency interactions as cooperative. Respondents, however, rated their own programs highly in terms of innovation, efficiency and fulfilling public need.

An overwhelming number of respondents (81 percent) expected their fiscal 2013 budgets to decrease and are concerned that "without proper funding, we will not be able to maintain service," the report stated. The expected budget cuts are stoking fears among managers of lower employee morale. Seventy-five percent of respondents who supervise at least one employee are concerned or very concerned that budget cuts will lower workforce morale and hurt productivity.

Government Executive will hold a town hall event discussing the results tomorrow morning at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington.

By Kellie Lunney

November 7, 2011